Born and educated in France, Françoise Barnes has been drawing and painting all her life. She is largely self-taught, but, after coming to the United States in the 1960's, she took drawing and painting classes at Ohio University and later, in the 80's, she also studied with the artist Murray Stern. Meanwhile, in the mid 70's she discovered quilts, at the time when America had started to look at quilts not only as bed covers, but also as a contemporary art form, unconstrained by tradition. This became a passion for her, and for the next 20 years she exhibited her art quilts, taught, juried and lectured in the US and abroad. In 1979, Barnes co-founded Quilt National, a biennial exhibition which has since become arguably the most prestigious art quilt exhibition in the world. Her art quilts are in many private and corporate collections such as General Electric, Aetna, Delaware Art Museum (purchase), Ohio Arts Council Permanent Collection, etc.
A few critiques of her art quilt work:
...The three African-inspired mask quilts by Françoise Barnes display a complete mastery, not only in quilting techniques, but in creating illusions of depth and movement. Barnes quilts are unusually dynamic, and there is a wonderful play between abstract design and the literal depiction of an object…”
Diane Armitage, THE Magazine, April 1995
Françoise Barnes uses the quilt medium almost as a painter would (her) canvas…the two dimensional plane of the quilt surface is manipulated to create the illusion of perspective in complex, abstract arrangements….bold, saturated colors play an integral role in the construction of the image….
The Ohio Selection’85 Catalog”, The Dayton Art Institute.
…in a word, her work is extraordinary…Barnes’ compositions speed with color and form, defying the borders of the quilt…
Art New England, June 82
In 1992 Françoise made the decision to end her career as a quilt maker, so that she could focus exclusively on painting. She initially worked in a representative manner with oils, but in the end found that the style that suited her best was abstract, using acrylics and mixed media, experimenting with a variety of marks, forms, compositions, and textures. In 2019, Barnes was named one of the "Twelve New Mexico Artists to Know Now" by THE Magazine.